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Creating a safe, welcoming and inclusive workplace: Rainbow Connections

  • Publication Date:

    28 August 2023

  • Author:

    Allan Drew

  • Area:

    Mental Health, Addiction
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In 2022, a number of kaimahi at Te Pou and Blueprint for Learning came together to form a group that has since become known as Rainbow Connections, a rōpū committed to creating a workplace where everyone feels safe and welcome at work as their true self.

The group arose organically from the mahi undertaken by Blueprint for Learning during its Rainbow Tick accreditation process, and has since established itself as an internal voice and advocacy group for those who identify as takatāpui, rainbow or part of LGBTTQIA+ community. The group is rainbow-led, but includes allies.

Rainbow connections initiatives

Our Rainbow Connections group has taken on a number of initiatives since its inception. Key among these has been the development of guidelines to support kaimahi who are affirming their gender. The group also played a key role in reviewing the language Te Pou and Blueprint uses in our publications, resources and training to ensure it’s inclusive and strengths-based – and our approach to language has since been documented in our internal style guide. Rainbow Connections also helped guide the creation of a new section for Let’s get real under the Working with people Real skill: Working with takatāpui and rainbow communities. There are other important steps taken – some of which may feel small but can make a real difference.

  • We’ve set up a Rainbow Hub on the intranet – a one stop shop to find rainbow inclusion training, information and resources for all staff, including who is a member of Rainbow Connections.
  • We take time to celebrate, acknowledge, and provide education around days of significance for rainbow communities, including Transgender Day of Awareness and the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia.
  • We’ve rolled out Rainbow Inclusion education for all Te Pou and Blueprint staff via our Rainbow Inclusion 101 and Active Allyship workshops. A rainbow e-learning is now a mandatory part of induction.
  • There is more visibility of rainbow positivity in our physical spaces – things as simple as flags and lanyards.
  • Promoting the inclusion of pronouns in email signatures, and education about why this is important. There is also the option for people within rainbow communities to have a rainbow flag beside their profiles on the Te Pou and Blueprint websites.
  • We changed our approach to collecting demographic data to conform to best practice for inclusive options for declaration of gender.

Duty of care

Working in the mental health and addiction space we have a duty of care to ensure the voices of our rainbow whānau are celebrated, heard, and included in all the work we do. A study of workplace inclusion published by Rainbow Tick, in collaboration with Spark, found that there is a great deal of improvement needed. Although many organisations believe they are doing well in this regard, the voice of people from the rainbow community indicates otherwise. For example, only around half of trans and gender diverse people feel comfortable being out at work. Inclusion is generally worse in rural areas, and older employees are less supportive overall of initiatives to improve rainbow inclusion.

Looking to the future

The Te Pou and Blueprint Rainbow Connections group continues to work on the cultural shift within both organisations thanks to an open and more proactive review and consultation with members of rainbow communities when Te Pou and Blueprint are developing new training or resources. A contract with Inside Out to provide evidence-based and well-informed review of work is in place. Meanwhile, work continues on a review of how to make bathroom spaces accessible and safe for everyone, and working with People and Culture to ensure HR processes are rainbow-inclusive.

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Members of the Rainbow Connections group at Te Pou.

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